I appreciate Karin’s coverage of Elle magazine’s piece on conservative women.

Indeed, it’s nice that Elle thinks non-liberal women are a topic worth covering, but it’s pretty pathetic—though I guess expected—that the article’s author, Nina Burleigh, seems to seek to caricature conservative women, rather that painting an accurate picture of who we are today.

And, in some cases, Nina’s is just plain wrong or misleading. Obviously I know my own story best, so I’m going to consider the little write up I got in this article. Here’s the text:

NeW still runs book groups, and among its current favorites is The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism, by 37-year-old Virginia mother of three and former Republican Congressional staffer Carrie Lukas (who quit her job to be with her kids). Lukas’ main point is that feminists have hurt women by advising them to pursue careers before establishing families, leaving them too old to bear children. This flip of kids and career was first advocated a decade ago by author Danielle Crittenden, though Lukas goes much further, indicting day care as harmful and premarital sex as unhealthy, and opining that “real” women want a husband, while feminists “pine for a sugar daddy in Uncle Sam.”

First, I didn’t quit my job to be with my kids. I stopped going into the office after I had Molly in 2005, and started working from home. Had this telecommuting option not existed, I likely would have quit (all of which I told the reporter in a lengthy phone interview). Fortunately, IWF has always been wonderful about trying to help women balance work and family life, so I haven’t taken any leave of absence from IWF beyond a couple weeks of maternity leave after each of my kids. Maybe the fact checking department of Elle has been cut back by the recession, but seems like this one could have been caught by an easy google search where you’d see I’m listed on IWF’s staff page.

Then the rest of the paragraph is just a gross exaggeration of what I’ve written and the point I try to make.

My main point isn’t ” that feminists have hurt women by advising them to pursue careers before establishing families, leaving them too old to bear children.” In my book, I detail how women’s studies textbooks spend lots of time on “reproductive issues” but seem to ignore many women’s fertility problem. Studies have shown that women tend to think that fertility begins to decline later than it actually does. And many women who struggle to get pregnant wish they’d known the facts earlier.

This doesn’t mean that it’s a mistake for women to focus on careers first and have kids later. They just need to have the full facts so they understand the tradeoffs.

Likewise, I’ve never categorically said that “day care is harmful.” In my book, I wrote about how studies showing negative effects of extended hours in daycare, and how these studies are buried by academy and the press. Dangers to our kids, even ones that are very remote, are usually trumped in the press, but people are uncomfortable reporting findings about daycare.

Again, this doesn’t mean that women should never work or use daycare, or that using daycare is going to damage your kid. It simply means that women should know about some of the potential down sides of daycare, even if that’s only so they can look for any warning signs with their kids.
I’ve certainly never made the blanket statement that “pre-marital sex is unhealthy.” In writing about this touchy subject, I’ve highlighted how some of the messages that women and men receive (particularly in college) can be misleading. The idea that women and men are the same when it comes to sex is just biologically not true. Women are more vulnerable to diseases, pregnancy (obviously) and emotional fallout.

Does this mean that every woman is going to regret sex before marriage? Of course not, but women should understand that some of the taboos around women sleeping around isn’t just the patriarchy trying to keep women from having the fun they deserve.

Finally, I don’t know where Nina got the quote is about “real” women wanting husbands, not a government sugar daddy. Certainly, surveys of young women consistently show that a majority aspire to get married. But that doesn’t mean that those who don’t seek marriage or get married are some how “less” women than married women are.

I imagine in our conversation I tried to make the point that the kind of independence that liberal feminists have pushed isn’t really independence. It’s not independence to expect the government to pay for the decisions you make. Women should have choices about how to live: whether to get married or have kids or what kind of career to pursue. But they should face the tradeoffs associated with these choices.

That’s what I’ve tried to write about and convey in my conversation with Elle’s report. Apparently that’s not what she wanted to hear.